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Buckhead church to host environmental conference
by Everett Catts
February 05, 2014 02:44 PM | 4722 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When the leaders of the Caring for Creation Conference decided to stop holding the event at Lake Junaluska, a Methodist conference and retreat center in western North Carolina, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead decided it would take on hosting it.

The conference, scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, will include tours of the Atlanta Beltline, talks on green building, the Gippy Awards, workshops on sustainability and worship services. Christian environmental advocates Matthew and Nancy Sleeth are the keynote speakers.

“Peachtree Road recognizes the importance of caring for the Earth as part of our call as people of faith,” said the Rev. Leslie Watkins, an associate minister at the church. “We actually have taken the Earth as one of our mission fields. It’s an easy bridge. We also have a nice facility we have access to and have good hotels and restaurants nearby.”

Organizers of the conference are expecting at least 50 to attend. In addition to the Beltline tours, only two other events will take place off the church’s campus. The Gippy Awards ceremony will be at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta in Midtown. The honors are a play on words for GIPL, which stands for Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, a Decatur-based nonprofit that helps houses of worship become more environmentally friendly and honors people and houses of worship that are stewards of creation.

Also, Matthew Sleeth will preach Sunday at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on Emory University’s campus in DeKalb County.

Watkins said Peachtree Road UMC is committed to environmental issues.

“It’s our first commandment, Genesis 2:15, ‘Tend the garden and keep it,’” she said. “We haven’t done such a good job in the last 50 to 75 years. It’s core to the Wesleyan doctrine to care for the natural world. It’s part of the natural doctrine and of who we are as Methodists. We’re trying to be more mindful about how we live.”

Watkins said the church in the past five years formed a green team to look at environmental issues and had a GIPL representative conduct an energy audit there.

“We took a couple of their suggestions in that first year, 2009, and we saved $40,000 on energy bills,” she said. “We retrofitted light fixtures. We’re using sensors on light fixtures. We got rid of Styrofoam and went to an ecofriendly paper cup for coffee. Our preschool is now part of a program for healthy green schools. They’re looking at our cleaning supplies, the things we bring on our campus. We also started a recycling program.”

The event is open to the public, including people of all faiths. Registration is $100 for the conference, $25 for Friday worship, including lunch, and $35 for Saturday.

John A. Lanier, director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, an east Atlanta-based nonprofit which inspires and funds sustainability initiatives to benefit present and future generations, said in a statement he will attend the conference.

“People inside and outside the church are hopeful that the conference will have a wide impact,” he said. “It represents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the value of conversation and idea-sharing on the topic of sustainability in our everyday lives.”

For more information and to register, visit

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